Professor Elizabeth Gordon is an internationally recognized researcher and educator, and now chair of the Department of Accounting at the Fox School of Business. In her first year as chair, Gordon has reinvigorated the curriculum and faced the unprecedented challenge of moving the entire department online.
A first-generation college graduate, Gordon attended Indiana University, where she was first exposed to accounting. Attracted to the mix of stable employment, collaborative work and the potential to advise business leaders, she embarked on a new career path. “More than just numbers,” she says, “accounting is an information system that informs business decision-making.”
“After working in a Big Four accounting firm for several years, I found there were many unanswered questions about accounting and information that could best be pursued through research.” From there, Gordon received her MBA from Yale University and her PhD from Columbia University.
Gordon has held a number of high profile positions, including president of the International Accounting Section of the American Accounting Association (AAA) and chair of AAA’s New Faculty Consortium Committee. She is currently the vice president of finance for the International Association for Accounting Education and Research, where she works with scholars to further accounting research in emerging markets such as Poland, Romania and South Africa.
Gordon joined the faculty of the Fox School in 2007, bringing with her the perspective of both a practitioner and researcher. Her research is focused on international accounting sets and how they reflect economic realities. Elected as chair in 2019, Gordon has spent the year developing goals, planning for the future and most recently adjusting to a new academic landscape.
A Career Spent Looking Ahead
Her research in international accounting (policy) and its principle-based approach has influenced her approach to accounting education. Her textbook, Intermediate Accounting, is based on the need for critical thinking and judgment skills in accounting. “An accountant works with people and businesses to provide good information,” she says, “to make important decisions about operating, investing and financing.”
She has focused on the integration of technology, and its use in decision-making, in the undergraduate and graduate curriculums during her first year as chair. The department has made efforts to incorporate data analytics and emerging technologies, like Tableau, Alteryx and ACL, in BBA and MAcc coursework.
“With the changes in technology, accountants are viewed more and more as business partners and business advisors.” Gordon says, “Not only providing that important information but also jumping in to help analyze it and understand it and be part of that decision making.”
She adds, “A university accounting education should foster curious and adaptive problem-solvers with strong analytical skills.”
Navigating Virtual Learning, Instructing and Connecting
Temple University’s move to online and alternative learning in mid-March presented new challenges for Gordon, the department and the Fox School. The Department of Accounting was better positioned than most, as all undergraduate accounting classes have been offered in online formats for several years, providing a blueprint for the faculty.
“We do believe that our history of online classes has allowed for an easy transition for accounting students and certainly the faculty.” Gordon adds, “Still, most students and faculty have been navigating a different way of learning, instructing and connecting.”
Gordon has also worked to remain connected, albeit virtually, with the undergraduate students outside of the classroom. In addition to creating an online hub of information with Canvas, the department hosted weekly speakers and open Zoom sessions to check-in with students and support their professional development.
With the spring semester just ended, Gordon applauded students and faculty noting, “In this unprecedented time, students and faculty rose to the challenge. Given the transition, we finished the semester in a much better place than we could have ever expected.”
The Future of Accounting
Looking ahead, Gordon sees a real need for accountants. “The accounting profession is even more critical in an environment like this. As financial experts, accountants play an important role in analyzing, interpreting and making decisions about companies operating, financing and investing activities.”
She adds, “As COVID-19 continues to spread, companies will have to reconsider the assumptions they have been working under and financial decisions they have made in these areas. The trends in technology and data analytics have positioned the profession well to operate in this kind of environment and address its challenges.”
Accountants will be the ones to face the challenges. “There’s going to be a need for good, reliable information. It’s where accountants will step in to ensure that the integrity of business practices and the integrity of information.”
Gordon is helping Fox students and future professionals prepare. She asserts, “To best prepare our students for this changing business environment, accounting education has to be focused, agile and innovative.”